Nancy Holcroft Benson


The following information comes from the named instructor and should describe characteristics general to courses as taught by this instructor. Individual sections of specific courses will deviate from this description in some respects.

Class Format

BIOL 121 (Intro Bio for Non-Majors): The lecture portion of this course is primarily—wait for it—lecture. However, the more prepared students are on a given day, the more likely it is that the format will become more of an interactive discussion (and these are my favorite days!). Lecture is also often broken up by opportunities for you to work with neighboring students to solve various problems through application of the concepts. In the laboratory portion of BIOL 121, students most often work in tables of four, though sometimes students will work in pairs, and occasionally, the whole class will work together.

BIOL 127 (General Zoology) and BIOL 150 (Biology of Organisms): In these courses, students are expected to prepare extensively prior to the weekly discussions via reading and completion of notetaking packets. Each discussion covers one to three major phyla. The remainder is primarily exploratory lab work that allows students to examine animals through study of models, microscope slides, preserved specimens, and live specimens. Students participate in numerous dissections, including clams, squid, earthworms, crayfish, sea stars, dogfish sharks, perch, bullfrogs, and fetal pigs. In most semesters, there are also often informal, optional field trip opportunities.

In all courses I teach, I work hard to create an atmosphere in which students feel safe to explore new ideas; I like my classes to be relaxed, inviting and fun. (You should also know that I tend to get REALLY EXCITED about biology, and I tend to include a lot of random pop culture references in all sorts of places in my courses. That’s just how I roll.)

Resource Use

Textbooks

BIOL 121 (Intro Bio for Non-Majors): Limited to moderate use. The textbook serves as an additional resource to which students can refer to improve their understanding of the material. I do use many, many diagrams from the text, and I often use end of section or end of chapter questions from the book as questions on the exams.

BIOL 127 (General Zoology) and BIOL 150 (Biology of Organisms): Extensive use. Students must read, and take notes over, the book prior to weekly in-class discussions over the material.

Online homework

BIOL 121 (Intro Bio for Non-Majors): Required weekly pre-lab quizzes are administered via the course website on D2L. In addition, notes, study guides, grades, etc. are all available through D2L. Students should plan on checking the course D2L site regularly.

BIOL 127 (General Zoology) and BIOL 150 (Biology of Organisms): There is no online homework for these courses per se, but both use D2L heavily to supplement the materials presented in class. Photographs of the models, microscope slides, etc. are available on the course D2L sites, and students should plan on checking the course D2L site regularly.

Assessment

BIOL 121 (Intro Bio for Non-Majors): Students earn their grades in this course through a basic point system. Points are earned via the following: lecture exams (three midterms, each worth 100 points, plus one final exam worth 150 points; the final exam comprises both new and comprehensive portions), lab practicals (three, each worth 40 points), lab quizzes (best 10 of 11, each worth 10 points), in-class and homework points (40 points total), Reading Scientific Literature assignment (40 points), Ecology assignment (40 points), and Tree Age and Diameter assignment (40 points).

BIOL 127 (General Zoology) and BIOL 150 (Biology of Organisms): Students earn their grades in this course through a basic point system. Points are earned via weekly tests (worth 50 points each) and tri-weekly lab practicals (worth 100 points each). In BIOL 150, there is also a paper worth 100 points.

Homework Policy

BIOL 121 (Intro Bio for Non-Majors): Aside from the three major homework assignments (Reading Scientific Literature, Ecology, and Tree Age and Diameter), there is little assigned homework that is collected and graded. However, I have written extensive study guides for both the lecture and lab portions of the course, and students are expected to complete these study guides as homework. These are NOT collected and graded—the whole point is that if you complete them in a timely manner (i.e., not the night or two or three before the exam) and work to understand the material covered therein, you will do well on the exams. This is college. Your homework—every day—is to study for the classes you're taking.

BIOL 127 (General Zoology) and BIOL 150 (Biology of Organisms): There is no homework that is *collected*. However, students are expected to do the assigned reading and to complete the corresponding notetaking packet prior to the weekly discussion over that packet. Again, this is college. Your homework—every day—is to study for the classes you're taking.

I do pride myself on a fast turnaround on all graded work (including assignments, quizzes, exams, and practicals) in all of my classes. All work is hand graded (I never use scantrons) and grades are posted on D2L within 24 hours of completion/turn in of the item. The one exception to this is the Ecology assignment in BIOL 121; in some semesters, I have to extend the turnaround on that assignment to 36 hours.

Attendance Policy

BIOL 121 (Intro Bio for Non-Majors): Students who miss more than 20% of the points available in the course and/or who miss their regularly scheduled lab more than two times will be dropped for non-attendance. If a student misses a lecture exam and does not take the exam early, he or she will have to take an essay makeup exam and/or incur a 15% point deduction on his or her exam score. If a student misses a lab practical, he or she loses those 40 points—due to the extensive prep work involved in setting them up, lab practicals cannot be made up.

BIOL 127 (General Zoology) and BIOL 150 (Biology of Organisms): Students who miss class more than nine times will be dropped for non-attendance. If a student misses a weekly exam and does not take the exam early, he or she will incur a 10% point deduction on his or her exam score. If a student misses a lab practical, he or she loses those 100 points—due to the extensive prep work involved in setting them up, lab practicals cannot be made up.

In all courses, students must also make every effort to be on time to class. Students who arrive late for quizzes, exams, and/or lab practicals will incur point deductions. If you miss class, it is YOUR responsibility to find out what you missed, get notes from a classmate, etc. Do not expect me to repeat the entire lecture during my office hour or to provide you with a copy of notes (my notes are in my head, which is a pretty good place to store your notes, especially for exams). I cannot emphasize this enough: students who come to class regularly and *make good use of their time in class* are the most successful students.

Availability

I hold five scheduled office hours per week but am typically available at other times as well. I am also happy to schedule specific meeting times as needed. I check my email many times a day, but I almost never check my voicemail, so if you need to get in touch with me, email is the way to do it. Note that while I do love to teach, I do not spend all of my time outside of class waiting for students to email me with questions. I generally answer emails within business hours (M-F, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.). If you email me in the evenings or on the weekend, you probably won't get a response until the next business day.